The new slogan is wonderfully optimistic on the surface. But beyond the fizz, it’s taking on a whole new meaning. Faced with declining sales in many of their drink categories, PepsiCo has embarked on a self-styled Beverage Bailout for many of its leading brands, including Pepsi, Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Tropicana. Updating package design and tweaking logos is hardly unusual, but the scope of the giant beverage maker’s approach has taken some remarkable new twists and turns.
The smiling/grinning/laughing logo.
You have, no doubt, noticed the introduction of the new Pepsi logo and slogan “Refresh Everything” that has been appearing in numerous media. The brand name-less and slogan-less billboard campaign is of particular note, where the new Pepsi logo mark, which resembles a smiling face, takes the place of the letter ‘o’ in mostly one-word executions that relate (somewhat vaguely) to the new brand position. Boards include “WOW,” “FABULOUS,” “POP,” “JOY,” “HAPPY O9,” “OH BOY, OH BOY,” and there are many others. No Pepsi logo, name or package appears anywhere on the board, but we all know it’s the red, white, and blue of Pepsi, even though the logo is re-designed.
What you may not have noticed is that the new logo actually has a smaller or bigger smile, depending on what product it’s on. Diet Pepsi has a tighter-lipped look with a smaller white portion, and PepsiMax’s larger grin has been described as a laugh, maybe because of the extra jolt of caffeine that comes with it. But part of what Pepsi appears to be doing with a number of its products is moving away from verbal messaging toward a more iconic, visual impression of its brands.
Gee whiz, just “G”?
Pepsi has owned Gatorade for a little over 8 years and has grown their range of offerings dramatically in that time, most recently with the lower calorie G2, and the Tiger (Woods) line of sport drinks. Now, in an interesting move foreshadowed by the G2 sub-brand, the flagship product name has been reduced to simply the letter ‘G.’ Pepsi must have resisted the urge to re-name it “The Sports Drink Formerly Known As Gatorade” since that would barely fit on a billboard, but reducing a brand to nothing more than a consonant is a bold move, indeed. It’s hard enough to own a common word in branding. A single letter will be an even bigger challenge.
Sending Tropicana back to the cabana
So using the same design firm that revised the Pepsi logo and the Gatorade–I mean G–packaging, PepsiCo set out to re-engage their Tropicana audience with updated packaging of their classic orange juice product line. Customers were re-engaged alright; they were so put off by the new packaging that utilized more whitespace and dropped the unique orange-with-a-drinking-straw icon, that they called, wrote, flamed, and otherwise intimidated Tropicana management into eating $30 million in design and printing costs and reverting to their previous packaging. Pundits proclaimed the uprising as yet another example of consumers having the upper hand in marketing. Tropicana apologized. Some market research people had a lot of ‘splaining to do. And the refresh everything philosophy took a hit.
Ain’t no mtn tall enough
Lastly, even the brand name Mountain Dew has been deemed by Pepsi to be too long for our attention-challenged brand culture. They have reduced the moniker to Mtn Dew, which, like G, depends a great deal on our previous awareness of the brand’s full name to understand the new shorthand version. A redesigned logo for the soft drink was also part of the makeover.
Is Pepsi OK?
It is far too early to judge how well these marketing moves will pan out for PepsiCo and their beverage brands. But they do demonstrate an attempt to innovate with their brand communications by being far more graphic, intuitive, and relying on context to convey their brand promise and brand experience. The new moves have a youthful sensibility that is right on brand for Pepsi, Gatorade and Mtn Dew products, though arguably less so for Tropicana. (Which may explain the failure of the new package design.)
Having one of the largest marketing budgets on the planet can help hammer in any idea. But give credit to the beverage giant for trying new concepts such as a shifting graphic in their logo, more symbolic brand names, and innovative, non-verbal communication. Some of the ideas may be abandoned (I would bet against the G concept surviving), but some may regain sales for brands that are badly in need of, well, refreshment.